When Jennifer Andelin went to her first City Council meeting, she was scared to death.
"I was extremely intimidated," said the 37-year-old mother of five. "I'd always voted but didn't understand our form of government."Eight years later, the full-time homemaker finds herself in the center of West Jordan government after being appointed this January as the first woman to head the city's Planning Commission.
Andelin didn't know what she was getting into when she went to her first City Council meeting. She went to try to get a walkway for the new elementary school so her oldest son, then 5, could get to school safely.
She spent the next two years working on the project and learning about city government. She started going to the "good neighbors" meeting and was invited to West Jordan's yearly stakeholders meeting. Whenever a city issue concerned Andelin, she called a city councilman or spoke her mind at the City Council meetings.
After six years as an involved citizen, Andelin went from being a concerned mother to working for the city government. She was appointed to the city's Planning Commission.
"My parents said, `You don't want to be on the Planning Commission. That's a political hot spot. People will say nasty things about you,' " Andelin said.
But after considering whether she could devote enough time to the position, Andelin accepted. She soon found the job requires a lot more time than attending two meetings a month.
Andelin, who received her bachelor of arts degree at Brigham Young University in Latin American studies with a minor in music, says she felt inadequate in the job because she wasn't technically oriented. She spent hours reading material provided by the planning office, studying the duties of a planning commissioner.
Sometimes she takes her children with her on visits to sites the Planning Commission discusses. These visits, along with bringing her kids to City Hall, have provided her children with a better understanding of civic involvement, Andelin says.
Many citizens, much like Andelin before she got involved in the city, don't realize what an impact they can make, she says.
"They think, if I elect good people, well, then I don't need to go to city meetings," she said. "Well, just because they're good people doesn't mean they reflect your views."
Andelin, who grew up near Cottonwood High School, has a vision for West Jordan. She sees a balance between a thriving business district with wide roads and residences ranging from starter homes to more expensive move-up homes, all interspersed with parks and green open space.
"We can decide our destiny," Andelin said, referring to the city. "A lot of cities are built out, but West Jordan isn't."
Because she loves West Jordan, the 15-plus hours a week Andelin volunteers for the city are well worth it.
"The most fulfilling thing is driving down the streets," Andelin said, "and seeing a building or a wall we worked with and knowing I made a difference."